Do you ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated? It’s the question Johnny Rotten (nee, Lydon) asked at the end of the final Sex Pistols concert in the 70s. (“Final,” of course, until they reunited with original bassist Glen Matlock in the 1990s. I saw them in L.A.; it was awesome.) That’s kind of the feeling you get from “Asking Me Lies.”
Not like you’ve been cheated by the song, mind you. This is a fabulous song by an even more fabulous band. (The Replacements, the true voice of my generation, remain to this day Criminally Underrated.) But the narrator of the song–who for argument’s sake lets just agree to assume is the ‘Mats lead singer and main songwriter Paul Westerberg–is pointing out there is something of a disparity in the world: “The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting drunk. In a black and white picture, there’s a lot of gray bunk.” He’s feeling just a little cheated.
Can’t blame him. Nearly thirty years on, this song is still relevant. He is still getting cheated (most recently by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which still hasn’t admitted the Replacements). We all are. We are living in a fucking Orwell novel; I’d feel less dystopian about things if the Cheeto in Chief had not literally said that what we are seeing and hearing is not what is happening. (For anyone who hasn’t been paying attention, google it; I’m not kidding.) The gap between the ultra wealthy and the rest of us just keeps growing. The climate has gone to hell, or at least it feels that way. There’s even word that the Trump-driven EPA wants to relax rules governing the restrictions on asbestos. Asbestos. You know, that horrible thing that causes mesothelioma, aka the disease that killed Warren Zevon way too soon. There’s more mass shootings, more public bigotry, more of everything that’s bad.
I get that this is part of the political cycle. The price we are paying for having had a black president is this spray-tanned yahoo who’s only goal is to undo any and everything that has Barack Obama’s name on it. And it will pass. If nothing else, we’ll get a new president at the next major election, although I think it will happen sooner with a proper impeachment. The bricks for that are falling into place slowly, but Mueller is building the wall that Trump promised. Too bad for him it’s going to be a wall that closes in around him. And for every step backwards, there will be a commensurate step forward. It’s just kind of hard to remain zen about the whole thing when all this injustice and unfairness and damage is being wrought with the United States’ stamp of approval, even if it is just nominal.
I have to admit, I didn’t really expect a political rant when I chose this song. I heard it this afternoon on my way to buy grapes and strawberries on sale. It’s kind of stuck with me ever since. But the sadness and anger lends itself to the times. They are indeed “telling you questions and asking me lies.” Just don’t expect me to shut up and take it.